Accountability factor Featured

7:00pm EDT January 29, 2008

James P. Carulas learned the hard way that sometimes the toughest decision you have to make is not to hire someone.

When Meaden & Moore, a 180-employee accounting firm, had major growth opportunities staring it in the face, Carulas, the president and CEO, was tempted go on a hiring spree.

However, he says it’s better not to hire anyone than to hire someone who isn’t a good fit for the company.

Smart Business spoke with Carulas about how to grow smartly and how to make sure you and your employees are on the same page.

Q. What are the keys to being an effective leader?

In order to be effective leaders, people have to be role models. We have to inspire, we have to communicate a vision and inspire that vision.

Effective leadership is sharing the vision, getting people to buy in to that vision of what the future can be, where we’re trying to go and having everybody pull toward that in a collaborative way.

Leadership isn’t, ‘I’m in a position; you’ll do what I say.’ Leadership is, ‘I believe in the organization; I believe in what we’re trying to do. I take personal responsibility.’

In effective organizations, the vision and beliefs are not static things developed in a strategic planning meeting and put on the shelf. They are reinforced constantly throughout the organization through the way they interact with the policies you make.

Q. How do you share your vision with employees?

It’s in the way you communicate it. First of all, you have to know — when creating a vision, you have to know yourself. Part of effective leadership is the leaders having an understanding in their personal beliefs and who they are.

If you understand who you are as an organization — what you stand for, who you are, where you’re going — then the other aspect is the people coming in have to understand who this organization is.

Q. How do you make sure your employees understand the organization’s direction?

To do that, you have to understand who they are and what they’re trying to achieve. If you have that insight, from then on out, everybody’s looking for verification of what you told them when they were coming in. They bought the idea, ‘I’m SBN, we’re a management journal that’s going to create practical, real-life information for people. We’re going to put best practices into our journal.’

When you came in, you were told what they were trying to do, and you bought in to that. After that, it needs to be communicated daily.

When we create a vision, it’s what we see the world looking like for Meaden & Moore 10 years out. There are all kinds of things that could impact us. But you have to start by saying this is what the ideal would be like. This is the impact we would like to make.

All our actions should be in concert with what we believe. If people believe it, they will be acting it out every day. From communicating it verbally to the activities you promote to the way you reward people to the way you celebrate people’s success — it’s all in alignment to what your vision and belief is.

Q. How do you get buy-in?

The buy-in comes because you’ve modeled it in your mind, you’re able to inspire others, you’re able to create, you’re able to get other people onto the train.

When you paint your vision, you have to understand the dynamics of all the people in the organization. We all work in the organization, so there has to be some commonality. You have to gain some understanding of the people who work in our offices and what they’re looking to do. I can’t say all of a sudden we’re going to be the firm that will provide services to NASA, when I have a bunch of people who don’t like science.

You have to know your people; you have to ask for feedback. Have an understanding of what motivates your people.

You have to get a feel for the landscape of your organization and the people that you have because a vision that is not aligned with a reality check on who you have is doomed to fail.

Q. How do you make sure your vision is being executed?

You have to convince a core group of people where we’re trying to go. Then you have to have them reinforce it constantly in their actions and in their communications. They can’t say one thing then do something else.

Everybody has to have buy-in, and it needs to be communicated on a number of different levels. The way you inspire it is understanding your people, and what their goals are, aligning that or taking that into consideration when you paint the vision, then you model it, then communicate that and share it. You get everybody to be part of it.

HOW TO REACH: Meaden & Moore, (216) 241-3272 or